My Lord and My God! In a marvellous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief
Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. He was the only disciple absent; on his return he heard what had happened but refused to believe it. The Lord came a second time; he offered his side for the disbelieving disciple to touch, held out his hands, and showing the scars of his wounds, healed the wound of his disbelief.
Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events? Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed? It was not by chance but in God’s providence.
In a marvellous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection.
Touching Christ, he cried out: My Lord and my God. Jesus said to him: Because you have seen me, Thomas, you have believed. Paul said: Faith is the guarantee of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. It is clear, then, that faith is the proof of what can not be seen. What is seen gives knowledge, not faith. When Thomas saw and touched, why was he told:
“You have believed because you have seen me? Because what he saw and what he believed were different things. God cannot be seen by mortal man. Thomas saw a human being, whom he acknowledged to be God, and said: My Lord and my God. Seeing, he believed; looking at one who was true man, he cried out that this was God, the God he could not see.”
What follows is reason for great joy: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts one we have not seen in the flesh. We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works. The true believer practises what he believes. But of those who pay only lip service to faith, Paul has this to say: They profess to know God, but they deny him in their works. Therefore James says: Faith without works is dead.
‘No-one can come to me unless the Father draws him.’ You must not imagine that you are being drawn against your will, for the mind can also be drawn by love. Nor should we be afraid of being taken to task by those who take words too literally and are quite unable to understand divine truths, and who might object to these words of scripture, saying: How can I believe of my own free will. if I am drawn? In reply I say this: It is not enough to be drawn of your own free will, because you can be drawn by delight as well.
What does it mean, to be drawn by delight? ‘Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ There is a certain desire of the heart to which the bread of heaven appeals. Moreover, if the poet can say: ‘Everyone is drawn by his delight’, not by necessity but by delight, not by compulsion but by sheer pleasure, then how much more must we say that a man is drawn by Christ, when he delights in truth, in blessedness, in holiness and in eternal life, all of which mean Christ?
Or must we assume that the bodily senses have their delights, while the mind is not allowed to have any? But if the soul has no delights, how can scripture say: ‘The children of men will take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They will feast on the abundance of your house, and you will give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life: in your light we shall see light’?
Show me a lover and he will understand what I am saying. Show me someone who wants something, someone hungry, someone wandering in this wilderness, thirsting and longing for the fountains of his eternal home, show me such a one and he will know what I mean. But if I am talking to someone without any feeling, he will not know what I am talking about.
Offer a handful of grass to a sheep and you draw it after you. Show a boy nuts and he is enticed. He is drawn by the things he is running to take, drawn because he desires, drawn without any physical pressures, drawn simply by the pull on his appetite. If, then, the things that lovers see as the delights and pleasures of earth can draw them, because it is true that ‘everyone is drawn by his delight’, then does not Christ draw when he is revealed to us by the Father? What does the mind desire more eagerly than truth? For what does it have an insatiable appetite, why is it anxious that its taste for judging the truth should be as healthy as possible, unless it is that it may eat and drink wisdom, righteousness, truth and eternal life?
Christ says: ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’, but here and now! ‘for they shall be satisfied’, but in the future! I give him the thing he loves. I give him what he hopes for. He will see what he believes in but does not yet see. He will eat what he hungers for and be filled with what he thirsts for. When? At the resurrection of the dead, because I will raise him up at the last day.
Consider the poverty, humility and charity of Christ
Happy the soul to whom it is given to attain this life with Christ, to cleave with all one’s heart to him whose beauty all the heavenly hosts behold forever, whose love inflames our love, the contemplation of whom is our refreshment, whose graciousness is our delight, whose gentleness fills us to overflowing, whose remembrance makes us glow with happiness, whose fragrance revives the dead, the glorious vision of whom will be the happiness of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. For he is the brightness of eternal glory, the splendour of eternal light, the mirror without spot.
Look into that mirror daily, O queen and spouse of Jesus Christ, and ever study therein your countenance, that within and without you may adorn yourself with all manner of virtues, and clothe yourself with the flowers and garments that become the daughter and chaste spouse of the most high King. In that mirror are reflected poverty, holy humility and ineffable charity, as, with the grace of God, you may perceive.
Gaze first upon the poverty of Jesus, placed in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. What marvellous humility! What astounding poverty! The King of angels, Lord of heaven and earth, is laid in a manger. Consider next the humility, the blessed poverty, the untold labours and burdens which he endured for the redemption of the human race.
Then look upon the unutterable charity with which he willed to suffer on the tree of the cross and to die thereon the most shameful kind of death. This mirror, Christ himself, fixed upon the wood of the cross, bade the passers-by consider these things: ‘All you who pass this way look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.’ With one voice and one mind let us answer him as he cries and laments, saying in his own words: ‘I will be mindful and remember and my soul shall languish within me.’ Thus, O queen of the heavenly King, may you ever burn more ardently with the fire of this love.
Contemplate further the indescribable joys, the wealth and unending honours of the King, and sighing after them with great longing, cry to him: ‘Draw me after you: we shall run to the fragrance of your perfumes, O heavenly bridegroom.’ I will run and faint not until you bring me into the wine cellar, until your left hand be under my head and your right hand happily embrace me and you kiss me with the kiss of your mouth.
In such contemplation be mindful of your poor little mother and know that I have inscribed your happy memory indelibly on the tablets of my heart, holding you dearer than all others.
From The Catecheses of St Cyril of Jerusalem, an early fourth century Bishop and Doctor of the undivided Church:
“The Church is called ‘Catholic’: such is the proper name of the holy Church which is the mother of us all. She is also the bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God (for it is written in the scripture, ‘Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her,’ and so on). Moreover she fulfils the type and carries out the pattern of the Jerusalem which is from above, which is free and the mother of us all. Though she was at first childless, she is now the parent of a mighty family.
“After the former Church had been rejected, in the second, that is, the Catholic Church, God has appointed, as Paul says, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues and every type of virtue: I mean wisdom and intelligence, self-control and justice, mercy and humanity, and invincible endurance in persecution.
“However, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, through honour and dishonour, first in persecutions and distress she wreathed her sacred martyrs with crowns of endurance interwoven with manifold and varied flowers; now in times of peace, she receives by the grace of God due honour from kings and men of rank, in a word from every sort and kind of person. And though the kings of nations spread round the world have limits to their sovereignty, it is the holy Catholic Church alone which in the whole earth rejoices in unlimited sovereignty; as it is written, God ‘has appointed peace as his boundary.’
“In this holy Catholic Church, formed by its teaching and living as we ought, we shall possess the kingdom of heaven and inherit eternal life. For the sake of this we endure everything, that we may gain that life from the Lord. We have no modest aim, but the gaining of eternal life; that is the object of our striving.
“For this reason we are taught in the Creed that after ‘And in the resurrection of the flesh’ that is, of the dead, which we have already discussed, we affirm our belief ‘in life everlasting’. This is the object of our efforts as Christians.”
Therefore, the Father is life really and truly. Through the Son he pours forth upon all in the Holy Spirit the gifts of heaven as from a fountain, and in his kindness to us men he has promised truly to each the good gift of eternal life.